List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

relief to my body - "

"Let us first speak a little of the mind, if you please," said the
Beguine - "of the mind, which, I am sure, must also suffer."

"My mind?"

"There are cancers so insidious in their nature that their very
pulsations cannot be felt.  Such cancers, madame, leave the ivory
whiteness of the skin unblemished, and putrefy not the firm, fair flesh,
with their blue tints; the physician who bends over the patient's chest
hears not, though he listens, the insatiable teeth of the disease
grinding onward through the muscles, and the blood flows freely on; the
knife has never been able to destroy, and rarely, even temporarily, to
disarm the rage of these mortal scourges, - their home is in the mind,
which they corrupt, - they gnaw the whole heart until it breaks.  Such,
madame, are the cancers fatal to queens; are you, too, free from their
scourge?"

Anne slowly raised her arm, dazzling in its perfect whiteness, and pure
in its rounded outlines as it was in the time of her earlier days.

"The evils to which you allude," she said, "are the condition of the
lives of the high in rank upon earth, to whom Heaven has imparted mind.
When those evils become too heavy to be borne, Heaven lightens their
burdens by penitence and confession.  Thus, only, we lay down our burden
and the secrets that oppress us.  But, forget not that the same gracious
Heaven, in its mercy, apportions to their trials the strength of the
feeble creatures of its hand; and my strength has enabled me to bear my
burden.  For the secrets of others, the silence of Heaven is more than
sufficient; for my own secrets, that of my confessor is enough."

"You are as courageous, madame, I see, as ever, against your enemies.
You do not acknowledge your confidence in your friends?"

"Queens have no friends; if you have nothing further to say to me, - if
you feel yourself inspired by Heaven as a prophetess - leave me, I pray,
for I dread the future."

"I should have supposed," said the Beguine, resolutely, "that you would
rather have dreaded the past."

Hardly had these words escaped her lips, than the queen rose up proudly.
"Speak," she cried, in a short, imperious tone of voice; "explain
yourself briefly, quickly, entirely; or, if not - "

"Nay, do not threaten me, your majesty," said the Beguine, gently; "I
came here to you full of compassion and respect.  I came here on the part
of a friend."

"Prove that to me!  Comfort, instead of irritating me."

"Easily enough, and your majesty will see who is friendly to you.  What
misfortune has happened to your majesty during these three and twenty
years past - "

"Serious misfortunes, indeed; have I not lost the king?"

"I speak not of misfortunes of _that_ kind.  I wish to ask you, if, since
the birth of the king, any indiscretion on a friend's part has caused
your majesty the slightest serious anxiety, or distress?"

"I do not understand you," replied the queen, clenching her teeth in
order to conceal her emotion.

"I will make myself understood, then.  Your majesty remembers that the
king was born on the 5th of September, 1638, at a quarter past eleven
o'clock."

"Yes," stammered out the queen.

"At half-past twelve," continued the Beguine, "the dauphin, who had been
baptized by Monseigneur de Meaux in the king's and your own presence, was
acknowledged as the heir of the crown of France.  The king then went to
the chapel of the old Chateau de Saint-Germain, to hear the _Te Deum_
chanted."

"Quite true, quite true," murmured the queen.

"Your majesty's conferment took place in the presence of Monsieur, his
majesty's late uncle, of the princes, and of the ladies attached to the
court.  The king's physician, Bouvard, and Honore, the surgeon, were
stationed in the ante-chamber; your majesty slept from three o'clock
until seven, I believe."

"Yes, yes; but you tell me no more than every one else knows as well as
you and myself."

"I am now, madame, approaching that which very few persons are acquainted
with.  Very few persons, did I say, alas!  I might say two only, for
formerly there were but five in all, and, for many years past, the secret
has been well preserved by the deaths of the principal participators in
it.  The late king sleeps now with his ancestors; Perronnette, the
midwife, soon followed him; Laporte is already forgotten."

The queen opened her lips as though to reply; she felt, beneath her icy
hand, with which she kept her face half concealed, the beads of
perspiration on her brow.

"It was eight o'clock," pursued the Beguine; "the king was seated at
supper, full of joy and happiness; around him on all sides arose wild
cries of delight and drinking of healths; the people cheered beneath the
balconies; the Swiss guards, the musketeers, and the royal guards
wandered through the city, borne about in triumph by the drunken
students.  Those boisterous sounds of general joy disturbed the dauphin,
the future king of France, who was quietly lying in the arms of Madame de
Hausac, his nurse, and whose eyes, as he opened them, and stared about,
might have observed two crowns at the foot of his cradle.  Suddenly your
majesty uttered a piercing cry, and Dame Perronnette immediately flew to
your beside.  The doctors were dining in a room at some distance from
your chamber; the palace, deserted from the frequency of the irruptions
made into it, was without either sentinels or guards.  The midwife,
having questioned and examined your majesty, gave a sudden exclamation as
if in wild astonishment, and taking you in her arms, bewildered almost
out of her senses from sheer distress of mind, dispatched Laporte to
inform the king that her majesty the queen-mother wished to see him in
her room.  Laporte, you are aware, madame, was a man of the most
admirable calmness and presence of mind.  He did not approach the king as
if he were the bearer of alarming intelligence and wished to inspire the
terror he himself experienced; besides, it was not a very terrifying
intelligence which awaited the king.  Therefore, Laporte appeared with a
smile upon his lips, and approached the king's chair, saying to him 
'Sire, the queen is very happy, and would be still more so to see your
majesty.'  On that day, Louis XIII. would have given his crown away to
the veriest beggar for a 'God bless you.'  Animated, light-hearted, and
full of gayety, the king rose from the table, and said to those around
him, in a tone that Henry IV. might have adopted, - 'Gentlemen, I am
going to see my wife.'  He came to your beside, madame, at the very
moment Dame Perronnette presented to him a second prince, as beautiful
and healthy as the former, and said - 'Sire, Heaven will not allow the
kingdom of France to fall into the female line.'  The king, yielding to a
first impulse, clasped the child in his arms, and cried, 'Oh, Heaven, I
thank Thee!'"

At this part of her recital, the Beguine paused, observing how intensely
the queen was suffering; she had thrown herself back in her chair, and
with her head bent forward and her eyes fixed, listened without seeming
to hear, and her lips moving convulsively, either breathing a prayer to
Heaven or imprecations on the woman standing before her.

"Ah!  I do not believe that, if, because there could be but one dauphin
in France, "exclaimed the Beguine, "the queen allowed that child to
vegetate, banished from his royal parents' presence, she was on that
account an unfeeling mother.  Oh, no, no; there are those alive who have
known and witnessed the passionate kisses she imprinted on that innocent
creature in exchange for a life of misery and gloom to which state policy
condemned the twin brother of Louis XIV."

"Oh!  Heaven!" murmured the queen feebly.

"It is admitted," continued the Beguine, quickly, "that when the king
perceived the effect which would result from the existence of two sons,
equal in age and pretensions, he trembled for the welfare of France, for
the tranquillity of the state; and it is equally well known that Cardinal
de Richelieu, by the direction of Louis XIII., thought over the subject
with deep attention, and after an hour's meditation in his majesty's
cabinet, he pronounced the following sentence: - 'One prince means peace
and safety for the state; two competitors, civil war and anarchy.'"

The queen rose suddenly from her seat, pale as death, and her hands
clenched together:

"You know too much," she said, in a hoarse, thick voice, "since you refer
to secrets of state.  As for the friends from whom you have acquired this
secret, they are false and treacherous.  You are their accomplice in the
crime which is being now committed.  Now, throw aside your mask, or I
will have you arrested by my captain of the guards.  Do not think that
this secret terrifies me!  You have obtained it, you shall restore it to
me.  Never shall it leave your bosom, for neither your secret nor your
own life belong to you from this moment."

Anne of Austria, joining gesture to the threat, advanced a couple of
steps towards the Beguine.

"Learn," said the latter, "to know and value the fidelity, the honor, and
secrecy of the friends you have abandoned."  And, then, suddenly she
threw aside her mask.

"Madame de Chevreuse!" exclaimed the queen.

"With your majesty, the sole living _confidante_ of the secret."

"Ah!" murmured Anne of Austria; "come and embrace me, duchesse.  Alas!
you kill your friend in thus trifling with her terrible distress."

And the queen, leaning her head upon the shoulder of the old duchesse,
burst into a flood of bitter tears.  "How young you are - still!" said
the latter, in a hollow voice; "you can weep!"


Chapter XLIV:
Two Friends.

The queen looked steadily at Madame de Chevreuse, and said: "I believe
you just now made use of the word 'happy' in speaking of me.  Hitherto,
duchesse, I had thought it impossible that a human creature could
anywhere be found more miserable than the queen of France."

"Your afflictions, madame, have indeed been terrible enough.  But by the
side of those great and grand misfortunes to which we, two old friends,

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >



Other sites:

db3nf.com screen-capture.net floresca.net simonova.net flora-source.com flora-source.com sourcecentral.com sourcecentral.com geocities.com